There once was a time when I thought mission work was all done over seas. I thought a missionary was someone who raised their own salary and traveled to the far reaches of the world to share the gospel with people who wore loin clothes, painted their faces and lived in grass huts. It made no sense to me and I had no desire to engage.
Then there was a time when I believed that mission work was all about “getting people” saved. Equipped with surveys, pamphlets and gospel trinkets, it was about convincing and persuading people into the kingdom. The most helpful thing you could do for them was show them they were a “sinner in need of grace” and that you knew where they could get it. And the best thing about grace was it was free! The goal was always to close the deal and pray the prayer. Believe it or not, I actually dabbled in this for a while, but felt awkward at best and like a sleezy salesman at worst.
And then there was the time my parents were part of a church plant. I was in middle school and thought it was the most foolish thing ever. They said they wanted to “reach people” and “spread the gospel.” I thought, “Aren’t there already plenty of churches in the world. Aren’t they already doing that?” I didn’t see how another one on the other side of our small town would help.
For the longest time I understood “mission(s)” was a part of the Christian faith, but I had no interest in it or imagination for it. My faith amounted to me getting into heaven when I die and since that was taken cared of, I didn’t a whole lot more to worry about.
Since then I’ve come to believe that “mission(s)” isn’t just part of the Christian faith, but rather is the driving force behind the Christian faith.
One theologian said, “It’s not that God’s church has a mission in the world, but rather God’s mission has a church.”
The mission of God, or the missio dei, was launched in the book of Genesis when God called Abraham. At that time God was seeking to gather a people who would be his people. A people who would be His conduit of redemption in the world. The church wasn’t born until the book of Acts. That means the church falls under the umbrella of God’s mission, not the other way around.
Therefore, as Christians, regardless of our perspective and/or desire regarding missions, we are a missionary people. We are a people who are called and sent to bear witness to Jesus and His kingdom no matter where we are or what we’re doing. Mission isn’t an option. It’s part of who we are.
It’s taken me a better part of a decade to understand this and in the process it has radically changed my understanding of my role as a disciple and a pastor. And over the last few years it has resulted in significant shifts in my thinking about missions. Shifts such as
- Mission isn’t something we do, it’s part of who we are.
- I don’t have to go to the other side of the world, I can simply go across the street.
- It’s not my job to be right, but to bear witness.
- Nor do I have to convince people about their sin, but simply care and have compassion.
I don’t have this “mission thing” all figured out. I’m very much still on a journey. But I can’t help wonder how many other people there are like me? People who have thought the same things I have or completely wrote off missions all together?
Over the next couple of weeks, our church is launching into a 4 week series on the Mission of God and I would like to explore some passages of scriptures and experiences that have been significant in reshaping of my thinking.
I invite you to participate and share some of your story along the way. What has been your experience with missions? How has your thinking changed over the years? Where is God leading you now in participation with His mission?